Division News & Statements

Inaugural Native American youth camp held on campus

June 30, 2017

Inaugural Native American youth camp held on campus

(This story originally appeared on GVNow)

Nearly 20 high school students were on campus this week participating in an inaugural Native American youth camp.

Sponsored by the Division of Inclusion and Equity, the Anishinaabe Leadership Camp concluded Thursday, June 29. Participants are from high schools in Grand Rapids, Wayland, Mount Pleasant, Detroit and Dowagiac.

Kathleen VanderVeen, assistant vice president for equity, planning and compliance, said the idea sprung from Grand Valley's Native American Advisory Board. Arnie Smithalexander, who retired as director of Grand Valley's TRIO Upward Bound program, was brought on board to plan activities that focused on campus tours, leadership skills and cultural heritage.

Smithalexander and other camp leaders said exposing diverse students to college experiences provides them opportunities to begin planning their futures. "If a four-year degree is in their plan, it would be great if they thought of Grand Valley and remembered having a great time here," she said.

Jesse Bernal, vice president for Inclusion and Equity, called the camp an example of Grand Valley's commitment to creating a welcoming place for everyone. 

Lin Bardwell, member of the Native American Advisory Board, said a welcoming environment helps students find a community, which is important for retention as, statistically, Native American students have high drop-out rates. 

"We want them to see as much of campus as possible and learn from current students about what it's like to be a Native in a non-Native environment," Bardwell said.


For More Information Contact: Michele Coffill in University Communications - 616-331-2221

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